Review – Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2: Fortress of the Unknown

Comic Books DC This Week
Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2 cover, via DC Comics.

Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Greg Capullo, Penciller; Jonathan Glapion, Inker; FCO Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 10/10

Ray: Scott Snyder has described Batman: Last Knight on Earth and The Batman Who Laughs as the dual capstones to his nearly ten-year run on Batman books, and it’s not hard to see why. While both deal with concepts going back to his earliest days and include recent ones, TBWL is a darkly intimate title. By contrast, the Batman: Last Knight on Earth prestige-format Black Label trilogy is epic in every sense of the word. Like a twisted pastiche of Mad Max; On the Beach; and The Twilight Zone, what starts as a Batman story becomes something spectacular that encompasses the whole DCU in fascinating ways. Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2 begins with Batman interrogating Joe Chill over the mysterious body left in Crime Alley. That turns out to only be an illusion as Batman and Joker wind up caught in a horrific Speed Force storm in the post-apocalyptic hellscape they wander in. This delivers some of the issue’s most disturbing scenes – but the horror is only getting started.

They briefly think they’ve found refuge in a mysterious government base, but it turns out to be a hellish never-ending war as agents of the Red battle an army of Unknown Soldiers and Haunted Tanks, in a bizarre segment that mostly seems to illustrate just how far this world has slipped out of control. Eventually, they find their way to a new Fortress of Solitude where Superman is waiting for them – or is he? The truth is complicated and far more twisted, as they encounter a Lex Luthor who settled the battle of Justice vs. Doom in an unexpected way. The reality show twist to this storyline took me by surprise, but it feels like a meta twist on the choices we as a society face every day – and the majority often gets wrong. As Batman tries to unravel this mystery, tragedy stalks the old Alfred Pennyworth in the form of two Batman villains who should be long-dead.

The addition of a new masked villain named Omega, who has taken over Gotham City with the help of the Court of Owls, raises a lot of questions. Is this Lincoln March? Someone tied to Darkseid? A dark twist to one of Bruce’s allies? I can’t say I know yet, but I didn’t expect the identity of one of the Talons to be revealed at the end of the issue. Before we get there, there’s a gun-wrenching journey through the River Styx with the help of Wonder Woman, and an issue of some of the most brilliant visuals Capullo has ever put together. It’s easily the most ambitious book in the Black Label lineup so far, and it works brilliantly as a final journey through the DC world that Scott Snyder has helped to create. Unlike most post-apocalyptic stories, this one isn’t shrouded in monochrome black. Rather, it looks like the DCU – bright, colorful, and often dangerous and disturbing. All twisted to be somehow wrong. That’s what makes it work so brilliantly.

Speed force storm. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: I don’t know what to make of Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2. Or the first issue even. There are some great moments–anything to do with Alfred–but the concept keeps escaping my grasp. This is a clone of Bruce with his memories, yes? And something horrible happened to the world and Batman will never give up trying to make it better. I’ve got that. But the entire plot is so surreal that I question everything the story is telling me. We could be in Bruce’s last moments, a delusion before dying. Anything is possible.

Like, for instance, why Batman would cart around the Joker’s head. I know the writer reason–Joker is our audience stand-in, wondering what this Batman is doing. But it seems a lot of work for Bruce to carry that head around when it hasn’t helped.

However, the art shoulders (as it should in comics) the burden of the story and Capullo, Glapion, and Plascencia are obviously more than capable. They’re excellent. They have to not only zero in on the scenes with Batman and the Joker head, but give us setting after setting of the DC Universe transformed into horror, such as the attacks by the Unknown Soldiers and the Haunted Tanks, and the travel on the River Styx.

The perspective from above, as Batman sees land after land of destruction from his flyer, never failed to elicit a shudder.

But, still, I’m not sure where the story is going.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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